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Nonverbal Communication. “The World Beyond Words”. What is Nonverbal Communication?. “Messages expressed by nonlinguistic means.” Includes silent behaviors, environment, artifacts, and vocal intonation Is a powerful mode of communication.

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nonverbal communication

Nonverbal Communication

“The World Beyond Words”

what is nonverbal communication
What is Nonverbal Communication?
  • “Messages expressed by nonlinguistic means.”
    • Includes silent behaviors, environment, artifacts, and vocal intonation
    • Is a powerful mode of communication
all behavior has communicative value
All Behavior hasCommunicative Value
  • Because we “cannot not communicate”
  • May be intentional, but is often unconscious
  • Although we’re always sending messages through our nonverbals, these messages aren’t always received.
  • We especially pay attention to nonverbals when they contradict verbal communication.
nonverbal communication is primarily relational
Nonverbal Communication is Primarily Relational
  • Responsiveness
    • Communicates our interest in others’ communication
    • Women are generally more responsive than men
    • People in lower-power positions tend to be better at reading nonverbals
  • Liking – Positive or negative feelings about others
  • Power
    • Touch
      • Violence and Abuse
    • Space
    • Silence
a little more about the relational nature of nonverbals
(A little more about the relational nature of nonverbals)
  • Nonverbals are especially important:
    • For identity management
    • In defining our relationships (e.g., level of intimacy)
    • For expressing emotions we don’t want to express, can’t express, or don’t know we’re feeling
nonverbal communication is ambiguous
NonverbalCommunicationis Ambiguous
  • The same nonverbal can have multiple meanings
  • For example:
    • “I’m feeling content” smiles
    • “I’m feeling a little stressed” smiles
    • “I’m a bit sad” smiles
    • “I can’t believe you just did that” smiles
    • “How do I get out of this conversation?” smiles
nonverbal communication reflects cultural values
Nonverbal Communication Reflects Cultural Values

Some Examples…

  • Space
    • Americans tend to value more personal space than many other cultures
    • Men tend to value more personal space than women
  • Touch (Knapp, 1972)
    • Americans – 2 touches per hour
    • British – 0 touches per hour
    • Parisians – 110 touches per hour
    • Puerto Ricans – 180 touches per hour
  • Eye-Contact
    • In North-America: frankness, assertiveness, honesty
    • In many Asian and northern-European countries: abrasive & disrespectful
    • In Brazil: more intense eye-contact is the norm
the interplay between verbal and nonverbal communication
The Interplay Between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
  • Repeating
    • Your nonverbals simply repeat what you’ve said
  • Substituting
    • Your nonverbals replace language
    • Emblems (e.g., nodding)
  • Complementing & Accenting
    • Your nonverbals add depth and meaning to your language
    • Illustrators/Affect displays
  • Regulating
    • Your nonverbals help regulate the conversation
  • Contradicting
    • You say one thing, but your nonverbals say another
  • Nonverbals are under less conscious control, so deception is more likely to be revealed through our nonverbals.
  • High self-monitors and people who have lots of practice in deception are most successful at it.
  • Women tend to be better at detecting deception.
  • “Deceivers” tend to make more speech errors, to hesitate, to have higher vocal pitch, to fidget, blink their eyes more, and shift their posture more.
face and eyes15
Face and Eyes
  • Over 1000 distinct facial expressions
  • Eyes can be especially expressive
    • “Windows to the soul”
  • Men and women have been found to be equally expressive
    • Men show the most emotion in the lower left quadrant of their face
    • Women show emotion over their whole face
body movement kinesics
Body Movement/Kinesics
  • Body posture
  • Gestures
  • Manipulators/Fidgeting

An aside…

  • Touching is considered essential and therapeutic
  • Touching can influence liking and compliance
  • Is used to show intimacy or power/control
  • People with high status touch others/invade others’ spaces more than people with lower status
voice paralanguage
  • Consists of vocal tone, speed, pitch, volume, number and length of pauses, and disfluencies (“um”s, “ah”s), etc.
  • Paralanguage tends to be more powerful than language
  • Affects how other’s perceive us
    • Stereotyping (e.g., accents, vocabulary, grammar
  • Influenced by culture, gender, class (intentionally or unintentionally)

An illustration…


Try saying “You love me” to convey the following meanings:

  • You really do? I hadn’t realized that.
  • That ploy won’t work. I told you we’re through.
  • You couldn’t possibly love me after what you did!
  • Me? I’m the one you love?
  • You? I didn’t think you loved anyone.
  • Can communicate contentment, awkwardness, anger, respect, thoughtfulness, empathy
  • Can also be disconfirming
space proxemics

Personal Space

  • Intimate distance
  • Personal distance
  • Social distance
  • Public distance

Barrier behaviors and territory

You are here

time chronemics
  • Our use of time reflects:
    • Power/status
    • Cultural norms
    • Expectations
    • Interpersonal priorities
physical appearance
Physical Appearance
  • “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
  • We tend to notice obvious things first (gender, race), then note attractiveness
  • Physically attractive people generally are perceived better
  • Importance placed on physical appearance can be very damaging
  • It’s what we do with it that’s most important
  • Include clothing, jewelry, personal belongings, accessories, etc.
  • Communicate economic level, educational level, trustworthiness, social position, level of sophistication, economic background, social background, educational background, level of success, moral character, masculinity/femininity
  • Important part of first impressions
  • Communicates something about you
    • We surround ourselves with things that are important/meaningful to us
    • Use artifacts to define our territory
  • Can influence interactions
  • How people use an environment communicates something about them
Monitor Your Nonverbal Communication
  • Be Tentative When Interpreting Others’ Nonverbal Communication
    • Nonverbals are personal and ambiguous
    • Personal Qualifications:
      • Take responsibility for your interpretations
      • Use “I” language to check your perceptions of nonverbals
    • Contextual Qualifications:
      • Be aware of how the context might be influencing others’ nonverbals
      • Be aware of how different cultural norms might influence others’ nonverbals
      • Be careful not to jump to conclusions based on your own cultural norms